Meet A La Salette

Editor: Father Pierre-Jeannot Rakonindrainy, M.S., completed not only three terms as Provincial Superior of the La Salette Missionaries in Madagascar but also recently completed a term of six years as Assistant General in Rome. He is now serving in a parish of Croix de Belledonne on the northeastern outskirts of the city of Grenoble (around Omene).

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Fr. Pierre-Jeannot
Rakonindrainy, M.S.

How did you first come in contact with the La Salette message?

In the past as a youth, I assisted the La Salette Missionaries as well as the Sisters of Our Lady of La Salette as a volunteer catechist. In 1982 as a youngster in the La Salette apostolic school in Antsahasoa, I was introduced to the event and message of La Salette, thanks to the La Salette Missionaries of Madagascar.

What first struck me was the fact that the Blessed Virgin appeared to two young cowherds. Since they worked for the more well-off farmers of their village, they did not go to school, and only received a bowl of rice as their salary! In my native country of Madagascar, the majority of the population is impoverished and suffers every day from rampant systemic corruption. Mary at La Salette is the image of the love of Jesus who always opts for assisting the poor and the young.

The message of reconciliation is primarily an appeal to be sensitive to the needs of others, responsive to suffering humanity. The challenge is immense and I am proud to be La Salette with a spirit of solidarity with the poor and the helpless.

As a baptized Christian and La Salette religious, I am called to be a witness of my faith and an active minister of Reconciliation – in a sense, an expert in helping humanity! The challenge is immense and I am proud to be a La Salette, living out the spirit of solidarity with the poor and the helpless.

 Why have you come to live and minister in France for a few years?

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Fr. Jeannot with some Madagascar youth

A few months ago I arrived in Grenoble in the community of the Missionaries of La Salette in La Tronche, just outside the city of Grenoble. As part of my missionary ministry here, I came to France to get special training in the field of communication.

Our mission to proclaim the Gospel is conducted amidst a changing world: new technologies continue to develop, including, among others, innovations in communication media. In order to reach the young, the old and all categories of the population of all nations, we must be able to use these new technologies well. This is an important way to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ in our day and age.

Also I’m here to be a part of our La Salette ministry in France. This allows me both to become familiar with the life of the local Christian communities, different than those in my own home country of Madagascar. I am convinced that my education and ministry here is intimately related to Mary’s call to make her message known as well our charism of reconciliation as Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette. I believe I have much to learn as well as to share.

As a religious priest from Madagascar, what is parish life like in your home country?

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In 1982, men planted a cross on the Grand
Peak (9,770 feet), the highest point in
the Belledonne Region which watches
keep vigil over their parish.

The Catholic Church is one throughout this world in which we live yet this does not preclude allowing for some differences in each country with regard the expression and practice of the Christian faith. In Madagascar the attendance of young people at Mass and in religious activities such as choir, liturgy, catechesis is quite evident. They have little need to be mobilized since young people typically take responsibility in parish life.

For a majority of Malagasy Christians of all ages, Sunday Mass is a priority of life. Thus every Sunday the churches are filled long before the celebration begins. The celebration of the Mass is always extraordinarily animated despite the extended length of the Eucharistic celebration, typically at least two hours long.

What are some unique qualities of the lifestyle of people in Madagascar?

One of the most respected values in Madagascar is "fihavanana" or family unity and solidarity. It literally means treating everyone as if they were blood relatives – a deep person-to-person relationship. Because “family” is not limited to the nuclear family or a particular household or community, the individual family is very connected to their parish community, and even to their fellow villagers.

Malagasy proverbs illustrate this reality: "If your neighbor has nothing to eat, share with him the little you have," or "When two families live side by side and one family’s house has no leaks (during the rainy season), their house is called to be a shelter for both families."

In everyday life, the Malagasy have a deep concern for others. Their traditional society is essentially an altruistic one.

Do you know what your role might be working among us in the Catholic Church in France?

I am still sorting out what might be my place in serving the Church of France. I still trying to discern the evolving needs of the French Church. That said, I am willing to help where they need me, providing a witness to the Gospel.

Outside of my basic commitment to share the love of Jesus with those around me, I have no particular preference in terms of pastoral care. I love to sing. I would like to get involved with groups of young athletes, because soccer is one of my passions, but I don’t know if that will be a part of my ministry here in France?

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Malagasy people, friends of Fr. Jeannot, including a local soccer team (right).

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La Salette Missionaries, Province of Mary, Mother of the Americas

Our Community: The Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette are deeply rooted in the Apparition of Our Lady of La Salette which occurred near the hamlet of La Salette in southeastern France on Sept. 19, 1846. The Missionaries were founded in 1852 by Bp. Philbert de Bruillard, Bishop of Grenoble, France, and presently serve in some 25 countries.

Our Province: The Province of Mary, Mother of the Americas, was founded in 2000AD and is one of several provinces in the congregation. The members of this Province serve mainly in the countries of Canada, the United States and the Region of Argentina/Bolivia.

Our Mission: Our La Salette ministry of reconciliation responds to the broad vision given by Mary at La Salette as well as in response to the needs of the Church. As reconcilers, we together with the laity take seriously Mary’s mandate: “You will make (Mary’s) message known to all (her) people.”